THE shocking number of children affected by domestic abuse in Swindon is revealed in a report put to the council’s Health And Wellbeing Board today.
It shows that approximately 1,000 children each year are exposed to abuse within the home, usually between parents, with more than 40 per cent of that figure being under the age of five.
A further 30 per cent are primary school age and a large number witness domestic incidents on more than one occasion.
They are figures which have remained fairly constant over the the last couple of years.
Perhaps most alarmingly, the report, put together by the council’s public health team, says that more than 800 of those affected do not have any contact with social services.
Of those in contact with social services, less than two per cent were placed on a child protection scheme and only one per cent were put in care.
Olwen Kelly, the director of Swindon Women’s Aid, has said that while Swindon has a good approach to dealing with abuse it is only recently that relevant agencies have come to realise domestic abuse covers more than simply violence.
She said: “Unfortunately, it is usually only the most serious cases of domestic violence which get referred to social services, so a huge number of children don’t get any support.
“It is only recently that people have started to appreciate the impact of emotional abuse and its effect on children.
“It can be anything from the nasty comments to the controlling behaviour but it all has long term effects. This has not just been an issue in Swindon but all over the country as well.
“The council have taken a pro-active approach to domestic abuse on the whole so we are lucky in that respect.
“I am delighted that this issue is being properly looked at but there is more to do.”
The report goes on to explain the long-term effects domestic abuse can have on children.
It ranges from developing anxiety issues and depression right through to believing abuse is normal behaviour and so copying it later in life.
It suggests adopting a number of policies to help children in Swindon.
It will involve an increase in training for relevant staff members so they can identify domestic abuse earlier, as well as increasing data sharing so relevant agencies, such as the police and social services, will be able to communicate much more easily to highlight problems.
Cherry Jones, the Acting Director of Public Health for Swindon, said: “Domestic violence and abuse is, sadly, more common than people might expect, and often takes place behind closed doors.
“In Swindon approximately 1,000 children and young people are exposed to domestic abuse each year that we know about.
“Agencies across Swindon are working together to tackle the issue of domestic violence and abuse and are raising awareness to support victims.
“Anyone seeking advice or support can contact Swindon Women’s Aid 24-hour helpline on 01793 610610.”